Syria hails 'historic' Russia, China vetoes

5th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

A senior aide to Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday hailed as "historic" Russian and Chinese vetoes of a UN resolution against his regime's deadly crackdown on protests.

"This is a historical day that Russia and China as nations are standing for the people and against injustices," the presidential adviser, Bouthaina Shaaban, told AFP in Damascus.

"I think that all the Syrians are happy that now there are other powers in the world to stand against hegemony, against military interference in the affairs of countries and people.

"I feel that the veto that Russia and China have used... is a veto that stands with the Syrian people and gives the time for us to enforce and enhance reforms," she added.

Nine countries voted late Tuesday in favour of the text which had called for "targeted measures" if Assad pursues his clampdown, which the United Nations says has left at least 2,700 people dead.

Russia and China voted against, killing the resolution because of their veto powers as council permanent members.

South Africa, India, Brazil and Lebanon abstained, reaffirming a divide in the 15-member body since NATO launched air strikes in Libya using UN resolutions to justify the action.

The double veto was both condemned and lamented in Western capitals, with the United States saying it was "outraged" and France bemoaning it as a "sad day" for Syria's people and the Security Council.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed disappointment, saying "those who blocked (the resolution) will have this action on their conscience."

"This will be seen in the region as a decision to side with a brutal regime rather than with the people of Syria," Hague said in a statement.

"We will redouble our efforts to work with our international partners to increase the pressure on the regime wherever we can, and assure the people of Syria that they will not be forgotten."

France's UN envoy Gerard Araud said the vetoes were a "vote against the Arab Spring."

And French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the move marked a "sad day for the Syrian people" and for the council itself, while vowing to keep supporting the "Syrian democrats' struggle for freedom."

"The Security Council should not remain silent in the face of the Syrian tragedy," said Juppe.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said despite the failure of the resolution, his government would press ahead with its own sanctions against Assad's regime.

"(The veto) does not constitute an obstacle," Erdogan said, adding that along with European nations, Turkey will "inevitably impose right now a package of sanctions."

In New York, Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said the resolution was "based on a philosophy of confrontation," and that the threat of action was "unacceptable."

Many opponents raised the air strikes in Libya and fears of more in Syria to justify their votes.

China said it exercised its veto because the resolution would have "blindly" pressured the Arab nation and not helped.

"Some countries submitted a draft resolution to blindly impose pressure and even threatened sanctions against Syria. This would not help to ease the situation," said foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu.

US ambassador Susan Rice labelled the comments a "cheap ruse by those who would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people."

Rice called on the council to impose "tough, targeted sanctions" and an arms embargo against Syria.

"The United States is outraged that this council has utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge and a growing threat to regional peace and security," she said.

The US ambassador later led her delegation out of the council chamber after Syria's ambassador Bashar Jaafari accused the United States of "genocide" in a long attack on Western governments.

But the foreign ministry in Moscow, which had proposed an alternative resolution also condemning all violence, said Wednesday it would receive a delegation from Syria's opposition later this month.

"In October we intend to receive in Moscow two Syrian opposition delegations -- one from the domestic wing of the opposition based in Damascus, and the second from those who declared the so-called national council in Istanbul," said ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich.

European nations have vowed that the Russian resolution will not come to a vote.

Western governments and human rights watchdogs have expressed mounting criticism of the council's failure to adopt any resolution on Syria, which has since mid-March been shaken by an unprecedented protest movement Assad has sought to crush using deadly force.

In the latest violence, at least 11 people were shot dead by security forces on Tuesday, including six in the central province of Homs and two in the northwest of the country, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The other three were killed in various centres of protest across the country, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Meanwhile, Syrian state television aired an interview with a woman whom Amnesty and Human Rights Watch reported had been found decapitated, armless and skinned last month.

The woman identified herself as Zaynab al-Hosni of Homs, who had become a symbol of the revolt after her reported murder.

"I fled my family (in late July) because my brother beat me. My parents do not know where I am," said the woman dressed in black clothing but whose face was uncovered.

© 2011 AFP

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